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Tale of Tales' latest game asks you to make love to your tablet Exclusive

Tale of Tales' latest game asks you to make love to your tablet
June 19, 2013 | By Kris Ligman

IndieCade's annual E3 showcase serves as a first look for some of the year's biggest independent titles. Many of the showcase's offerings reemerge later in the year during IndieCade's October festival in Culver City. This year, the showcase showed off a wide range of titles, from Die Gute Fabrik's Sportsfriends (announced for PlayStation 3 just before the conference) and Tale of Tales' newest iOS experiment, Luxuria Superbia.

On the face of it, Luxuria Superbia is an abstract, flower-themed game that involves venturing through a tunnel. To actually play it, however, affords a much more tactile and sensual experience.

To be brief, it's a game about sex.

However, leaving it there would be to do a disservice to the game. While plenty of titles both triple-A fare and otherwise have sought to level up video games' maturity level by tackling sexual intimacy, most choose to address it from a clinical distance. BioWare's Dragon Age and Mass Effect franchises have players navigating romantic relationships before sitting back to watch their characters get physical; independent titles like Lea Schoenfelder's Ute or Nicolau Chaud's Polymorphous Perversity are more frank about sexuality and also allow the player to get more "hands on," but they still fall back upon mechanical conventions. They end up seeming cheeky rather than sensual.

Tales of Tales' Luxuria Superbia opts for a different approach. There are no characters besides the player and the device. Touching and stroking the surface of the tablet awards points, but only insofar as they can be used to unlock further tunnels. Successfully "exciting" the surfaces prompts feminine moans and sighs, along with swirls of stars and hearts. It's a long way from the austere landscapes of Fatale or Bientot l'ete, although it may remind players of the theme of sexual awakening found lurking within The Path.

"We wanted to make a game that was about this coming together of male and female," Auriea Harvey tells Gamasutra. "We came up with these verbs, you might say. Touching, kissing, licking. [And] the spiritual axis of male and female coming together sexually: connecting, unlocking, opening up, very emotionally conceptual."

Harvey, who founded Tale of Tales in 2002 alongside Michael Samyn, explains that the duo wanted to use the iPad as a platform to say something unique about how players interact with their devices.

"You're using this luxurious device to do lots of banal things, and the ways that you interact with this thing are something that you end up taking for granted," says Harvey. "So we always try to call this into question when we're doing these things."

While players won't be asked to lick their iPads, Luxuria Superbia does invite players to be consciously physical with the tablet surface. This sort of tactile relationship with one's hardware may put in mind the fleshy controllers from David Cronenberg's eXistenZ, but it's nothing so visceral or repulsive. Everything about Luxuria Superbia is beautiful, plush and inviting.

"The game becomes about how you touch your device and its reaction to that touch... It's a joyful thing," says Harvey. "It's lust and pride and we're going to revel in it, because that's what you do with a tablet. You have this device that's this object of desire, you've got this joyful experience that's just exploding around your fingertips."

In addition to iOS devices, Tale of Tales is also working to bring Luxuria Superbia to Ouya's controller-based touchpad. Harvey expects it will release sometime during the second wave of titles for the upcoming microconsole. An early alpha was available at Ouya's booth across the street from E3.

"The game is pretty much done. We're just polishing and, heh, play balancing!" Auriea Harvey says, grinning. As a developer known best for unconventional video games, the notion of a Tale of Tales title involving a scoring system might seem uncharacteristic, but Harvey is confident Luxuria Superbia bears the duo's unique stamp.

"It's turned out to be a big experiment with mechanics... I do think it'll be surprising," she acknowledges. "It has a lot of differences from other Tale of Tales games, [but] we still adhere to every design principle we've ever had."

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